Current artists: Amon Azizov, Wei Chen, Qiao Fu, Gao Min, Guo Kun Sheug, Artashes Karslian, Ji Yin Jin, Li Qun, Lin Ruo, Dean Lu, Ren Jien-Guo, Jorge Rivera, Sharif Sadiq, Peter Walsh, Xiang Yue Chuan, Dario Zapata, Zhuang Xuemin

Organized by Peter Walsh, Ongoing.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Forces Artists to Run for Their Livelihoods

“Oh my lord! It is ridiculous!” say NYC Park police officers.

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has created new Park Rules that drastically reduce the number of artists that can work in city parks, effective Monday, July 19, 2010. The new Park Rules force artists to literally run for their livelihoods. Every morning at 6am, artists must now race into each park to secure an authorized location. Artists who don’t get a spot either don’t work that day or they must relocate to a spot that dramatically reduces their access to the public. Hundreds of artists’ jobs are at stake.

This video was shot Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 6am by Peter Walsh.

Click here for the HD version.

For other disturbing video on the situation in Central Park, see Gao Min's videos here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Session Five Report; Successful "Display Only" Stand

Peter Walsh and Ji Yin Jin exchanging portraits near Grand Army Plaza in the southeast corner of Central Park, July 30, 2010.

Although the new park rules are currently in effect, two excellent portrait exchanges were completed this morning: Ji Yin Jin and Peter Walsh and Qiao Fu and Peter Walsh. A cool summer breeze made for a relaxing drawing session, especially coming at the end of a particularly hot and sticky July. The new portraits will be posted soon.

At 10:30am, after the exchanges, Peter Walsh set up a "display only" stand in a plaza location that is currently "illegal" for art vendors. Just two weeks ago five artists would have been on site. Two PEP (Park Enforcement Patrol) officers came by to say that the spot was not open for use. After Walsh explained that nothing was for sale, and while videotaping the entire exchange, one of the officers called a supervisor and the stand was allowed to remain at the location. Federal Judge Richard Sullivan has specifically stated that a "Display Only" stand is a protected form of free speech. Later, Xiang Yue Chuan came by with a smile, "You won!"

Monday, July 19, 2010

Report on Today's July 19th Protest Against the New NYC Park Rules

Excellent turnout today for the rally in Union Square Park against the new New York City Park Rules restricting artists' ability to show and sell art work in four major NYC public parks. As many as 200 people attended at the height of the protest, carrying placards, setting-up "Display Only" stands in the formerly legal spots in the parks plaza or selling via hilarious "No Stand" vending displays (imagine an  artist's take on a sandwich board and you'll get the picture).

The media were out in force: New York Times, Daily News, NY Post, NPR and various TV news crews. I personally had extended conversations at my "Display Only" stand with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, Metro and World Journal (a US-based Chinese language daily).

Here's some of the media coverage (Special thanks to Robert Lederman for assembling these links):

New York Times, July 19, 2010
Vendors Thumb Nose at City Restriction

Artists Protest New Limit on Vendor Spots in Parks

City Art Vendor Limits Take Effect


NY Post
Gotta have art! Vendors protest new limits in city parks

NY Law Journal; lead article, cover. Also has judge’s entire ruling


Videos of 7/19/2010 protest and sell-in Union Sq Park

Sorry I wasn't in Central Park! Last minute changes in strategy brought me, along with other artists, to Union Square for the main rally.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

UPDATE: Artist Protest / Artists in Public Spaces Phone-In

Tomorrow morning, Monday, July 19th, 2010 at 9am, artists will begin a series of protests at all four park locations targeted by the new NYC Park Rules: Union Square Park, Battery Park, Central Park South and the High Line. The main protest will occur at Union Square.

I will be at Central Park South, across from Grand Army Plaza (near the Plaza Hotel) at 9am with a “Display Only” Informational Stand about the Central Park Portrait Exchange and materials for an Artists in Public Spaces Phone-In. Drop by if you can.

If you can’t come by one of the four parks, or you’re not in New York City, yes!, you can still help!

Just pull out your cell phone and join the Phone-In (See below). You don’t need to live in New York to let these public officials know your opinion; visitors are big business.

Telephone numbers are listed below the talking points:

Talking Points

Be polite but firm when making calls. Remember that many, though not all, of the people we are calling are our potential supporters and allies.

1) Tell the person who answers the phone who you are and where you’re from. You don’t need to live in New York to let these public officials know your opinion; visitors are big business.

2) Does the public official you are calling have a position on the new Park Rules restricting artists’ free speech in public parks? What is the position? Has it been made public?

3) If they don’t know yet about the new rules, tell them: The rules significantly restrict the number of artists who can sell in the parks and will put hundreds of artists out of work and/or subject them to tickets, fines and/or arrest. NYC Local Law 33 (1982), the First Amendment and several Federal Court rulings currently allow artists to work in the parks without seeking permission. The new park rules illegally rewrite NYC laws passed by the City Council, disregard the First Amendment and ignore Federal Court Rulings. The recent denial of an artists’ request for a preliminary injunction against the new park rules is only a temporary step in a longer court battle that has not ended.

4) Tell them you love seeing artists working in the parks. It’s part of what makes New York a world city. Everyone should have easy public access to seeing and buying affordable art.

5) Tell them you strongly support the right of artists to work in the parks.

6) Tell them you are outraged that the city is putting people out of work in the middle of a recession.

7) Tell them the new Park Rules aren’t needed. If there is a problem with congestion, the city should simply enforce the current rules.

8) Ask them to directly call Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Quinn and Park Commissioner Benepe and tell them to stop enforcement of the new rules.

People to Call:

Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe. 212 360-1305
email address:

Alessandro G. Olivieri, 212 360-1313
General Counsel, Department of Parks &Recreation,
Email address:
Mayor Mike Bloomberg, 17 E 79th St., New York, NY, 10021-0101

Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate for the City of New York, 212.669.7250

Christine C. Quinn, City Council Speaker, (212) 564-7757 , then click “Contact Speaker Quinn”

City Council Members page:

If you live in New York City, contact your own City Council Member. If you don’t know who they are or what their number is, go to:

City Council Parks and Recreation Committee:

Elizabeth S. Crowley, 718.366.3900, District 30 Queens Democrat
Daniel Dromm, 718.803.6373, District 25 Queens Democrat
Julissa Ferreras, 718.651.1917, District 21 Queens Democrat
Vincent J. Gentile, 718.748.5222, District 43 Brooklyn Democrat:
Melissa Mark-Viverito, 212.828.9800, CHAIRPERSON District 08 Manhattan Democrat
James Vacca, 718.931.1721, District 13 Bronx Democrat
James G. Van Bramer, 718.383.9076, District 26 Queens Democrat

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction – Protests to Begin Monday Morning.

Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan has declined to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of the new NYC Park Rules designed to dramatically reduce the number of artists working at key locations in city parks. Artist protests will begin Monday morning at 6am in Union Square Park in Manhattan. Stay tuned for details soon.

Although it is disappointing that the judge failed to rule against the new park rules, history suggests that this is just the beginning of the latest round of battles over artists’ use of public space. For example, artists have previously been denied injunctions by judges and then have gone on to win their lawsuits. Lawyers for the current artist lawsuits, Lederman et al v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation et al and Diane I. Dua et a. v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation et al, will appeal the preliminary injunction denial immediately. The cases themselves are still very open.

To see the full text of the judge's ruling, click here:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Report on the “Show Cause Hearing” Regarding New Park Rules for Artists

(Photo One: Artists Protest at Federal Courthouse in Manhattan. Photo Two: Robert Lederman, artist plaintiff and president of the street artists' group A.R.T.I.S.T, speaking to reporters after the Show Cause Hearing. Photos by Peter Walsh)

About 100 artists gathered outside the Moynihan Federal Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan this past Thursday morning to protest the proposed revision of New York City Park Rules as Federal Judge Richard J. Sullivan held a two hour “Show Cause Hearing” that may lead to a temporary injunction preventing the Parks Department from implementing the rules until the full case is heard.

Judge Sullivan promised to rule by Friday, July 16th. Enforcement of the new rules is due to begin Monday, July 19th at 6 a.m.

In detailed questioning of lawyers representing both the city and the artists, Judge Sullivan touched on at least four major issues that affect the standard he needs to meet if he decides to grant the injunction.

1) Content Neutrality. Are the new rules biased against certain opinions or individuals? The judge clearly thought not.

2) The government’s right to regulate the use of parks, specifically concerning issues of public safety (i.e. Are the artists causing dangerous congestion?) and secondarily the preservation of park experience based on aesthetics (connected to a D.C. Federal Court ruling keeping vendors off the D.C. mall). The judge appeared to believe that the city made assertions of congestion but had no real fact-based evidence as to congestion nor as to what number of artists would be appropriate (50 artists are OK but 200 are not? Why?). However, he did seem to indicate that it wasn’t his job to interfere in the city’s management of park rules if ultimately they had a right to regulate the time, place and manner of vending of First Amendment vendors.

3) Narrow Tailoring. If there is a genuine government interest in reducing congestion in the parks, are these particular rules tailored in an appropriately narrow fashion? The judge appeared to think that the city provided little or no evidence on the appropriate level of restriction and was particularly skeptical of the logistics of the city’s first come, first serve plan for distributing proposed vending spaces in the parks. (The artists are supposed to line up at the edge of each park and then, at 6 a.m. sharp, race to a limited number of authorized sites? The city’s attorneys admitted point blank that they didn’t know how this would work.)

4) Alternate Channels/Venues. Lawyers for the city claimed that, except for the four locations scheduled for regulation (Central Park South, Union Square Park, Battery Park and the High Line) the rest of New York City’s parks are open for use by artists. Lawyers for the artists countered that, in reality, current rules concerning the width of sidewalks and distance from park furniture for vending already rule out large portions of parks for use by First Amendment vendors. The judge seemed to believe that neither side presented substantive evidence of these assertions and both sides declined an invitation for a second hearing to provide evidence. The judge left open the possibility of such a hearing for next Thursday morning, July 15th. Attorneys for the artists also asserted that the First Amendment allows artists to meaningfully interact with the public and therefore artists should be allowed to set up in those areas where people normally congregate – the high traffic areas scheduled for regulation.

Again, a ruling on a temporary injunction to block the enforcement of the new park rules is scheduled to be made on or before, Friday, July 16th. Enforcement of the new rules is due to begin Monday, July 19th at 6 a.m.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Session Four: Artashes Karslian and Peter Walsh

Artashes Karslian, who works near the Central Park Zoo on Wien Walk, has been drawing portraits on the streets and in the parks of New York City for 15 years. Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Mr. Karslian completed a portrait exchange with artist Peter Walsh on July 1st, 2010.
Most portrait artists working in Central Park use charcoal on newsprint as their preferred medium. Mr. Karslian, however, champions a unique brushed oil paint on watercolor paper method.

Some comments from Peter Walsh:
"Artashes has a surprisingly gestural drawing technique for such a clean and smooth portrait style; his brush seems to dance in the air over the surface of the paper before he gently slashes from one side or the other to produce the fine tonal gradations that he favors.
Sometimes he takes a wide, dry house painter’s brush to the entire drawing to give a more uniform grey tone to the page before he cuts back in with either a hard white eraser for highlights or a small flat brush to create small dark details.
Looking at his finished portraits I had assumed that Artashes was putting final touches in with a dab or two of white gouache. I was surprised instead to see him pull out a double-edged safety razor which he grasped at the edges to produce a U-shaped bow which he uses to cut out tiny nicks of paper which leave behind a splash of light in the sitter’s eyes, or a highlight on the tip of their nose.
‘My style takes a little bit longer than the other artists,’ he admits, but when I was working with him a line formed of people willing to wait. One young mother who said she was from upstate New York was bringing her children one by one to Artashes to have their portraits done. ‘We come to the park specifically to see him,’ she admitted."

Photos from the exchange by Peter Walsh and several passersby:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July! See you in court.

July 8th Hearing Set for City to Respond to Artists’ Request for a Preliminary Injunction Against New NYC Park Rules

In response to an artists' lawsuit, Judge Richard J. Sullivan of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York has ordered the New York City Parks Department to “show cause as to why a preliminary injunction should not be issued” in Lederman et al v. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation et al.

The “Show Cause Hearing” is set for this Thursday, July 8th, 2010 at 10:00 A.M. in Courtroom 21C of the United States Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street, in downtown Manhattan. The docket number is 1:10-cv-04800-RJS. For a map, click here.

What does this mean?
Artists have asked the courts to stop the enforcement of the new Park Rules, due to begin on Monday, July 19th, until the larger court case is decided. The judge will rule on a possible preliminary injunction. Although it will be excellent news for artists working in the parks if an injunction blocks the rules in the short run, ultimately it will be the decision in the actual court case that will preserve artists’ free speech rights. To see the artists’ Verified Complaint against the City, click here.

If you decide to attend, please allow extra time to pass through the security screening. Also remember that no cell phones, cameras or recording devices are allowed in the building. However, you are allowed to check them at the entrance and pick them up when you leave. Also note that you may be able to draw in the courtroom, as long as you are not disrupting the proceedings. Courtroom personnel are the ultimate authority on this.